A study released on Monday by the University of Vermont revealed that wild bees are less abundant in areas where they are most needed.

The research findings come after scientists found several trouble spots by creating the first national map of bee populations, which are crucial pollinators for many crops, such as almonds, apples, peaches and blueberries.

According to researchers, 139 counties, which represent 39 percent of the pollinator-dependent crop zones in the United States, will probably face deficient pollination in the future.

Credit: Columbiana Mahoning Beekeepers

Thanks to the map created by the researchers from the UV, they are now able to look at the status of wild bees and the effects low populations produce on pollination. The map allows scientists to predict the most vulnerable areas in order to set them as top priority for preservation programs.

“Wild bee declines may increase costs for farmers and, over time, could even destabilize crop production,” declared Taylor Ricketts, director of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 139 counties included California regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the Central Valley, west Texas, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, and the southern Mississippi River valley. The crops in those agricultural areas are significantly dependent on pollinators.

The paper states that between 2008 and 2013 wild bee populations decreased by 23 percent on the continental United States. That trend has been produced by conversion of the insects’ natural habit into farmland including corn for biofuel production. Other factors behind the dramatic declines included pesticides and diseases.

There are roughly 4,000 species of wild bees in the U.S. Ricketts explained they contribute with the pollination of the most nutritious crops and support natural ecosystems. Besides, wild bees annually contribute over $3 billion to the American economy.

Given their decline, farmers may be forced to rely on commercial honeybee colonies in order to maintain their pollinating crops. However, honeybee populations are also falling, according to study author Insu Koh.

Rufu Isaacs, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Integrated Crop Pollination Project, pointed out the importance of conservation programs to maintain pollinator populations in farmland in order to protect the natural ecosystems. He stated that it was imperative to warrant secure habitats to support wild bees, as well as other pollinators.

Source: Huffington Post